larguer les amarres

Colmar (c) Kristin Espinasse
Last week we cast on in the learning to knit post... this week we cast off to sea in today's larguer edition. Photo taken a few weeks ago, in Colmar, Alsace. (Today's story takes place 8 hours south, on the Mediterranean coast, in the town of Fos-sur-Mer.)

larguer les amarres (lar gay layz amar)

     : to cast off, to slip the mooring ropes

( larguer = to loose, to release)

Audio File & Example SentenceDownload MP3 

Pour quitter le port, le capitaine Cyril nous a demandé de larguer les amarres. To leave the port, Captain Cyril asked us to cast off the ropes.


Correct Your French Blunders Correct Your French Blunders: How to Avoid 99% of the Common Mistakes Made by Learners of French. Speak and write French as if it were your native tongue! Order here.



 A Day in a French Life.... by Kristin Espinasse

An Unexpected Excursion

My hands are clamped to the seat beneath me as I sit doubtful about boat security. I don't know anything about floating vessels... and fear the seat-belt question might seem absurd to the thrill-seekers beside me. Instead, I straighten up and inquire as any self-respecting 6-year-old would: how much longer?

My friend Rachel responds sympathetically: est-ce que ça va?
I assure her that tout va bien, but it is my husband that I am concerned about. Jean-Marc is standing a little too close to the side of the boat's bow, his hands holding onto its flimsy rails. His grip does not stop him from becoming airborne each time we hit a wake, or houache. Our little boat is surrounded by huge industrial ships, off in the distance. The ripples they send our way seem as big as surfer waves! 

As is my habit when flying through turbulence, I look over at the crew: no worried look on Captain Cyril's face and no worried look on First Mate Rachel's face.... (so then we must be safe...). 

First Mate turns to me: "We'll be there very soon," Rachel assures me, pointing to a speck on the horizon. Next, she tries capturing my attention by drawing my eyes to the designs on the surface of the water. "Look at the foam! J'adore la mousse!," she laughs, pointing to the intricate "V" design left by the boat's passage. I glance over my shoulder to view the bubbles, forcing an enthusiastic look across my face... but I won't turn around for fear of losing my balance!

"I am sorry about cette horreur!" Rachel apologizes, her eyes trailing over the industrial coastline of Fos-sur-Mer, where steel industries, and gas and chemical stations litter the air with pollution. From our perspective, this far out to sea, the coastline is a great ashtray and the buildings are cigarettes, each with a thick ribbon of smoke rising into the air.

There is a certain futuristic intrigue that keeps the scene from looking entirely foreboding. "Don't worry," I assure Rachel, not wanting my friend to feel she has to make excuses for her hometown, where she is rearing three young boys while caring for her mother, who is battling cancer. 

"We eat organic food," Rachel winks, "to make up for all the pollution!" Soon I am smiling again, remembering the organic sunscreen my friend slathered onto my shoulders. The pasty "bio" coating is currently providing a good laugh, but the comic relief is short-lived... when the speedboat turns sharply on its side!

"Ça y est!" I fret. "The boat's going to capsize!"

Just when I am about to shriek, Rachel grabs onto me. "Ne t'inquiète pas!" But it's too late: I am now sutured to the seat as Cyril swings the speedboat around in a tight circle. When will it stop? I begin to wonder whether our captain isn't just showing off--in which case I strongly object: "Ça suffit!"

Very soon I am ashamed for such a hasty judgment. Cyril cuts the engine and reaches for a long bar with a hook at the end... in time to fish my sun hat out of the water. Cyril was not turning in circles for amusement -- he was kindly going back to retrieve my casquette, which had flown off! 

Back on track and that little speck on the horizon soon becomes an eyeful of pristine sand. No trees or buildings... only the soft undulating surface, where endangered dunes rise like a whisper in the night. We have arrived at the presqu'île. Fifty or so meters from land and Cyril anchors the bateau à moteur. I look around, wondering about the raft that will take us to shore... just where is it? 

"You did wear your maillots de bain, didn't you?"

First Mate Rachel and I look at each other inquisitively. Next Rachel's eyes sparkle like a bride's before the threshold: "And miss the chance to be carried over to shore by such strong men?"

I send a wink of appreciation over to our ingenious first mate, as we take turns dipping our toes into the water during the men's long walk to shore....


Post note: Later on I discovered these photos on my camera, thanks to First Mate Rachel, who had snapped a few souvenir images. That's I and Chief Grape... who got back at me, several times, by dipping my backside into the cold water....  


Click to enlarge photo, taken by Rachel Fabre (that's her hubby, Cyril, to the right, and below left).

Captain Cyril and First Mate Rachel, long-time friends and fun hosts! 

Le Coin Commentaires
Are you adventurous? For some that might mean venturing out on a speedboat... (for others it might be bungee jumping from the Eiffel Tower!). Share a tale of your own, here in the comments box.


French Vocabulary

est-ce que ça va? = is everything OK?

tout va bien = everything's fine

j'adore la mousse! = I love foam!

une horreur = eyesore

ça y est! = that's it!

ne t'inquiète pas = don't worry

ça suffit = that's enough!

une casquette = baseball cap

une houache = wake of a ship

une presqu'île = peninsula

le bateau à moteur = speedboat

le maillot de bain = bathing suit




Chief Grape, Capitain Cyril, and First Mate Rachel enjoyed some Domaine Rouge-Bleu Rosé. For our California readers, if you are near Healdsburg, stop by Spoon Bar, where our rosé is poured by the glassful!

Sara midda's South of France: a sketchbook Sara Midda's South of France is a place of ripening lemons and worn espadrilles, ochre walls and olive groves, and everything born of the sun. It lies between the Mediterranean and the Maritime Alps, and most of all in the artist's eye and passion. Read the glowing reviews, click here.


Capture plein écran 17072011 195837
Narrow Dog to Carcassonne

"We could bore ourselves to death, drink ourselves to death, or have a bit of an adventure..." It was absurd. It was foolhardy. And it was glorious. When they retired, Terry Darlington and his somewhat saner wife Monica—together with their dog, a whippet named Jim—chucked their earthbound life and set out in an utterly unseaworthy sixty-foot canal narrowboat across the notoriously treacherous English Channel and down to the South of France. 


Have a minute for another story? This one is about The Writing Life -- it was posted one year ago... It might offer inspiration for anyone struggling to fill "la page blanche" or to face a blank canvas. Read it here. (Picture of Smokey taken one year ago).

Ongoing support from readers like you helps me continue this French word journal, now in its 18th year! If you enjoy these posts and would like to help keep this site going, please know your donation makes a difference! A contribution by check (click here) or via PayPal (below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!
♥ $10    
♥ $25    
♥ Or click here to send the amount of your choice

You can also support this journal by purchasing our book-in-progress, click here.


In the village of Sarrians: a slice of scenic life. Don't miss out on the whole pie at Cinéma Vérité.

empreinte (ahm-prehnt) noun, feminine

    : print, trace, mark

empreinte génétique = genetic imprint
empreintes digitales = fingerprint
empreinte de rouge à lèvres = lipstick mark

Audio File: Listen to my daughter, Jackie, pronounce the day's word, terms, and example sentence: Download MP3 or Download Wav

Elle a laissé une empreinte sur ma joue. She left her mark on my cheek.


A Day in a French Life... by Kristin Espinasse

Standing before the tall iron gates to the Gare D'Avignon train station, my aunt kissed me firmly, once on each joue. When she pulled back, I noticed her eyes begin to water and I looked away, focusing instead on her "Apple Polish" lipstick. It is her signature rouge à lèvres and she, the affectionate embrasseuse, often leaves a trace of it on those she loves.

On the way home from the gare, I decided to positiver: to not focus on my aunt and uncle's absence, rather to turn the lonely ride into a Sunday drive (opting for the scenic and free route nationale instead of the autoroute).

Twenty minutes into the trip and the signs for Courthézon went missing.... In their place were signs to Monteux. That's odd, I thought, until it dawned on me that I had taken a wrong turn.

I decided to not try to track back and, instead, let serendipity be the guide. Might as well enjoy the unplanned spree and so much floral scenery! I rolled down my window, inhaling the sweet scent of Scottish broom.
  Scottish Broom (c) Kristin Espinasse

The yellow-budded bushes are scattered everywhere this time of year. In contrast with the yellow buissons, ripe red coquelicots flanked the country roads and cherry trees bowed loaded down with their bright red bounty. Adding to the color fest were the frilly dresses and clacking heels which offered an oh-so-french summertime appeal.

Coasting into a suburban district, I soon recognized the village of Sarrians and pulled off the road along the tree-lined boulevard Albin Durand. Recognizing a favorite French façade, I snapped a few photos before setting out on a petit périple through the village.

I remembered a large cour where Mom and I had admired a pretty patch of belle de nuit. Now, two years later, I have the same flowers growing in my own garden. Lost in nostalgic souvenirs I ambled past les belles, snapping a few more photos along the way.

When next I came out of my photo stupor, I noticed a woman smiling at me. I could just make out her face beyond the glare of a windshield. Beside the car there was a bucket of sudsy water. I approached the friendly car washer and greeted her:

"It is all so beautiful," I explained, pushing my camera aside. The woman looked to be in her mid fifties. Her short blond hair was thick and wavy. In the place of maquillage she wore a healthy, natural glow.

The car washer smiled and I noticed how her sourire was unusually sympathetic. It reminded me of the other villagers I had just encountered: strangely, they were all smiling back at me in that same endearing, empathetic way. How comforting this was after leaving my family back at the train station.

I saw the bottle of window cleaner in the car washer's hand.
"Je vends ma voiture," she explained. I stood back and offered an appreciative glance (but, between you and me, the car was real rattletrap. I hoped my new friend was trading up...).

"Je vois. And what will you be driving next?"

"A Renault!" she answered, citing a newer model. This was good news indeed!

We chatted like that for a moment and I couldn't help wonder about her ever affectionate stare and that sympathetic smile which mirrored the locals that I had saluted earlier.

"Well, I should be moving on," I announced.

The car washer nodded, and her sympathetic stare went on to meet the sides of my face.

"Au fait," she said, pointing to my joues, "You have lipstick prints."

Lipstick prints!

My hands flew up to my cheeks and I remembered those friendly French faces which now flashed before me:

the old man on the bike whose smile seemed over-polite
the little girl grinning sweetly, ever indiscreetly
the young man who said salut (hoot hoot!)

How sympathetic they had been to the lip-smacking situation, never stopping to point it out, and, in so doing, keeping their own dignified clout.

Meantime my Aunt was halfway to Paris, hopefully giggling like gangbusters (or, at the very least, like sugar snatchers).

 :: Le Coin Commentaires ::

Thank you for leaving a comment about today's story or word. Click here. :-)  :-)

Free Newsletter Subscription

Sign up a friend or family member to French Word-A-Day and enjoy the photos and stories together.


la gare = train station
la gare d'Avignon
= Avignon train station
une joue
= jowl, cheek
le rouge à lèvres = lipstick
une embrasseuse (un embrasseur) = a kisser, one who kisses
positiver = to look on the bright side
la route nationale = highway
l'autoroute (f) = motorway, freeway
le buisson = bush
le coquelicot (syn. le pavot) = poppy
petit = little
le périple = journey
la cour = courtyard
la belle de nuit ("lady of the night") = botanical name "marvel of Peru" flower (Mirabilis jalapa "The four o'clock flower")
le maquillage = make-up
le sourire = smile
je vends ma voiture = I'm selling my car
je vois = I see
au fait... = by the way...


Exercises in French Phonics Exercises in French Phonics is...
" a great book for learning French pronunciation"
"useful and practical"
"high quality material, good value for your money" --from Amazon customer reviews. Order your copy here.


KINDLE: carry thousands of  educational books with you to France & beyond.

51Qckm1DSfL._SL500_AA280_ I Heart Paris Shopper: made of recycled material

Tune Up Your French: Top 10 Ways to Improve Your Spoken French

Sunshiney Orange Slice & Shadows.

Mr. Smoke says: Mama Braise does not like oranges -- tant mieux pour moi!

Ongoing support from readers like you helps me continue this French word journal, now in its 18th year! If you enjoy these posts and would like to help keep this site going, please know your donation makes a difference! A contribution by check (click here) or via PayPal (below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!
♥ $10    
♥ $25    
♥ Or click here to send the amount of your choice

You can also support this journal by purchasing our book-in-progress, click here.


noun, feminine 
a purposeless walk, a wander

One hour before the sun slips behind the deep blue Massif des Maures, I ring my neighbor's doorbell.

"On essaie un autre chemin aujourd'hui?" I offer.

"Pourquoi pas?" replies my friend, known affectionately as La Voisine. And off we march for our weekly chat-on-heels.

On the edge of our voisinage, our pace slows to accommodate the quiet scenery. We drift past a lone vineyard, its unkempt vines a contrast to the majestic castle in the darkening sky beyond. We mosey down a dirt path flanked by sleeping fig trees, their dry feuilles having nodded off weeks ago. We laugh as we amble past the free-range chickens scattering to and fro as if the French sky was falling toward their wrinkly feet. We saunter toward the river to cross over a slender bridge no longer than an afternoon line at the post office. The river now at our backs, we hike the chemin de terre leading to the medieval village of Les Arcs-sur-Argens.

Above certain village doors we see dates etched into the stone lintels: 1638... 1524....

"Treizième, celui-là!"  La Voisine points out. I look up to admire another ancient doorway, grateful for the friend who has awakened this dreamer to another detail that might have gone unnoticed. How much more we take in when we walk with a pal! What might have been little more than a lazy stroll, is now a study on all things historical.

We continue our balade, weaving through a maze of tiny ruelles, walking where sewage once flowed as freely as village gossip, when families emptied their chamber pots into the narrow canal running down the center of the now-cobbled streets.

We steal around another bend where gray rock walls give way to a slew of multicolored facades in pistachio green, custard yellow and rum raisin red—village homes crammed together like so many colorful candies in a pack. The cobblestone path is littered with lipstick-red fruit—les arbouses—which reminds me that I could just kiss the French ground beneath my feet for all that I have seen over the course of our promenade.

"Take another path today," my mom always says. If you are reading, chère maman, please know that I am.



YOUR EDITS PLEASE! To correct any text or grammar -- or to add feedback about this story, please use the comments box located at the end of this post. Thank you very much!

French Vocabulary

Massif des Maures = local mountain range

On essaie un autre chemin aujourd'hui?
Shall we try another path today?

Pourquoi pas?
Why not? 

la voisine, le voisin

le voisinage

la feuille

le chemin de terre
dirt track

Treizième, celui-là!
Thirteenth century, that one!

la balade

la ruelle
narrow street

une arbouse
arbutus-berry [from the wild strawberry tree]

chère maman
dear Mom 

Ongoing support from readers like you helps me continue this French word journal, now in its 18th year! If you enjoy these posts and would like to help keep this site going, please know your donation makes a difference! A contribution by check (click here) or via PayPal (below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!
♥ $10    
♥ $25    
♥ Or click here to send the amount of your choice

You can also support this journal by purchasing our book-in-progress, click here.


St Tropez braderie = clearance sale (c) Kristin Espinasse

brader (brah-day) verb

1 to sell off; to sell for next to nothing
2. (se débarrasser) to get rid of

une braderie = a sidewalk, clearance sale

brader les prix = to cut prices

Acheter ce dont on n'a pas besoin, c'est le moyen d'aller de tout à rien. Buying what we don't need is the way to go from all to nothing.

A Day in a French Life... by Kristin Espinasse

On a humid and hazy vendredi matin, we arrive in St. Tropez to find the parking lot presque plein. Along the port the artists are setting up shop: a chair, several canvases for sale and a work-in-progress on the easel. Multi-million dollar yachts are parked alongside a dozen or so small fishing boats for equal opportunity frimerie. A restaurant on the port announces its "Menu Braderie" -- a bold offering when you consider that "braderie" means "to get rid of" (yesterday's Bouillabaisse? day-old baguettes?).

We are in St. Tropez ("St. Trop" for the locals) for the famous Braderie d'Automne. 100,000 shoppers are expected to descend on the former quaint fishing village with hopes to "dénicher la bonne affaire."

Not fifteen steps into our quest for les bonnes affaires and we are stalled in a cramped rue piétonne, swallowed up by power shoppers.

"You've got to push." Barbara says. I look up at all these delicate French women and am afraid of crushing them, or at the very least ruffling their delicate chemises.* I push. Pardon. Oh, pardon. Pardon...

In front of every boutique, tables full of discounted merchandise. Kiwi brand bathing suits at 30 Euros instead of 90, GAS jewelry at 20 euros instead of 65. "Ça vaut la peine,"* the women say, as they sort through boxes of bijoux de fantaisie.*

Nothing for sale outside Louis Vuitton's and in front of Tommy Hilfiger's, no tables. The mannequins in the window are stripped. Inside, the salespeople look like TH models. C'est rigolo.*

"C'est..... Trop!" I say to Barbara, as we surface from la foule.*
"On ne sait plus ou donner de la tête!"* she says, translating my sentiments into her French.

Early on, I realize I would rather be watching than rummaging. I long to be a French seagull perched high on a colorful striped canvas store,* making harmless tongue-in-beak commentary as the Tropéziens file by, weighed down with chic paper shopping bags.

From where I am, c'est-à-dire,* sea level, in the belly of the crowd, I see a lot of bare midriffs, cleavage and pouty lips. I see men with coiffed hair and shoppers in talons hauts* toting dogs the size of an American football. I listen to the French who say things like, "Ils ont pas beaucoup de choses à brader là-bas."* Or, "Ici, c'est que les vieilleries!"*

We leave St.Trop with four small sacs* between us. Swim trunks for Barbara's son and a few nappes* for my friends and family back home. The sun eventually crept through the fog offering us a free St. Tropez tan, without the jingle cream, without le bain. And we are left with un bon souvenir* of a day in late October à un prix assez bas.*

*References: vendredi matin (m) = Friday morning; presque plein = almost full; frimerie = (a made up word from "frimer" = to show off); dénicher la bonne affaire = to unearth a good deal; une rue piéton (f) = pedestrian street; une chemise (f) = a shirt; Ça vaut la peine = it's worth the trouble (rummaging); les bijoux de fantaisie (m) = costume jewelry; c'est rigolo = it's funny; Ils ont pas beaucoup de choses à brader là-bas = they don't have a lot on clearance over there; une vieillerie (f) = old thing; la foule (f) = the crowd; C'est trop = It's too much; On ne sait plus ou donner de la tête! = We don't know where to begin (to look); un store (m) = awning; c'est-à-dire = that's to say; les talons hauts (m) = high heels; un sac (m) = shopping (bag); une nappe (f) = tablecloth; le bain (m) = bath (sun bath); un bon souvenir = a good memory: à un prix assez bas = for quite a low price

To read more stories about this French life, click on the book cover below:


Ongoing support from readers like you helps me continue this French word journal, now in its 18th year! If you enjoy these posts and would like to help keep this site going, please know your donation makes a difference! A contribution by check (click here) or via PayPal (below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!
♥ $10    
♥ $25    
♥ Or click here to send the amount of your choice

You can also support this journal by purchasing our book-in-progress, click here.

le miel


le miel (myel) noun, masculine
1. honey

mielleux (feminine: mielleuse) = unctuous, honeyed, sugary.


une lune de miel = a honeymoon
des paroles de miel = honeyed words, sweet nothings
doux comme le miel = sweet like honey
faire son miel de quelque chose = to profit from something (an idea,
information) lit: "to make one's honey from something"
être tout sucre, tout miel = to be polite in an exaggerated or hypocritical way

Citation du Jour:

Même quand on l'a perdu, l'amour qu'on a connu vous laisse un goût de miel. L'amour, c'est éternel!

Even when you have lost it, the love that you have known leaves a taste of honey. Love is eternal! --Edith Piaf

A Day in a French Life...

(The story that originally appeared here is now a part of the book "Words in a French Life: Lessons in Love and Language from the South of France.")

To read more stories about this French life, click on the book cover below:


*References: c'est-à-dire = that is (to say); la confiture (f) = jam; le paysage (m) = landscape, scenery; le centre ville (m) = the town center; une impasse (f) = a dead end; la Mairie (f) = the Town Hall; mort = dead; la balade (f) = walk; la blanquette de veau (f) = veal stew in white sauce; le poulet (m) = chicken; le plat du jour (m) = the day's special; le patron (la patronne) = the owner; une âme (f) = soul; rocher (m) = a rock; le vin rosé (m) = rosé wine

Ongoing support from readers like you helps me continue this French word journal, now in its 18th year! If you enjoy these posts and would like to help keep this site going, please know your donation makes a difference! A contribution by check (click here) or via PayPal (below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!
♥ $10    
♥ $25    
♥ Or click here to send the amount of your choice

You can also support this journal by purchasing our book-in-progress, click here.



dépayser (day-pay-ee-zay) verb
  1. to disorientate, to disorient
  2. to give a change of scenery to; to give a welcome change of surroundings to

dépaysant,e = exotic
dépaysé = out of one's element
un dépaysement = a disorientation

sentir dépaysé = to feel like a fish out of water; to not feel at home

Citation du Jour

Les passions s'étiolent quand on les dépayse.
Passions wilt when we disorient them.
--Gustave Flaubert

A Day in a French Life... by Kristin Espinasse

We are sitting in Il Ponte restaurant in a little Italian village called "Badalucco". Sonia, our hostess at the B&B, recommended we visit the arrière pays for a change from the Italian Riviera. "There's this wonderful restaurant," she says, kissing her fingertips, "Bene!"

"Tell them Sonia from Latte sent you! 'Latte,' like milk!"

Badalucco is an artists' village in the Argentine Valley. Faïence is scattered throughout the modest ruelles. On at least one miniscule winding village street, a painted ceramic plate announces each residence (one plate per door) and around every corner, a fresco. My favorite image is of a cat sitting next to a story. The words to the story are painted on the village wall, on a blue background.

Just like in a postcard image, the elderly Badalucchesi are seated in front of their homes, shucking beans and chatting with their neighbors. They stop from time to time to rinse their hands in the neighborhood fountain.

At the River Argentina we crossed the pont to access the family owned 'Il Ponte' restaurant. We weren't offered a menu; instead the waiter appears with a ceramic plate of fried zucchini, Italian cold cuts and some sort of fresh white cheese. Olive oil is drizzled over le tout.

Jean-Marc is trying to order Italian wine as they have offered only French. I tell him to stop fussing over the wine menu, "Just look at this! Will you just look at this! How do you say 'heaven' in Italian? In French, it is "le paradis." In a little lost village in the hinterland of the Ligurian coast, we have stumbled upon Le paradis du palais.

My husband says he would like to live in Italy. I guess Ligurian food does that to you. But still, it seems strange for a Frenchman (un Marseillais de coeur!) to admit that.

"They're so nice here," he says, as the waiter walks off humming in Italian. I'm wondering if it's the wine. Has it gotten to him? I understand his desire to move to San Francisco--but Italy?! Strangely, I've never known a Frenchman who moved to Italy. A French woman, oui, but not a French man. Don't get me wrong, the French love to visit Italy--but to s'expatrier there--c'est autre chose!

"J'aimerais bien vivre en Italie un jour."
"Sans déconner?" I say, teasing him in his native Marseilles' tongue.

It must be the rolling hills, or the Barolo wine. Or the fresh spinach linguini or the gambas. "You can eat the shells they're so good!" It could have been la baignade in the warm Ligurian sea after the meal at Marco Polo.

For me it is those little funky trucks on three wheels, the Vespa scooters, the pomodoro sauce the village lady was making as I passed by her front door. It is the language--the sound--of Italians speaking.

It is the Italian people. They have real joie de vivre mixed with a sincere generosity. It drips from their pores when they wave their arms high and low to tell you that you must, must visit the arrière pays. Try that restaurant. Savor this fruit. Eat. Enjoy. See. Come back!

A little dépaysement, ça fait du bien pour l'âme.

French Vocabulary
l'arrière pays
(m) = the countryside inland from the riviera; une ruelle (f) = an alley, lane; la faïence (f) = earthenware; le pont (m) = the bridge; le tout (m) = everything; le palais (m) = the palate; un marseillais de coeur = one who is Marseillais in his/her heart, though not born there; oui = yes; s'expatrier = to expatriate oneself; c'est autre chose = that's another thing; J'aimerais bien vivre en Italie un jour = I would like to live in Italy one day; sans déconner? = are you kidding?; les gambas (fpl) = Mediterranean prawns; la baignade (f) = the swim; une joie de vivre = a joy of life; ça fait du bien pour l'âme = that does the soul good

Ongoing support from readers like you helps me continue this French word journal, now in its 18th year! If you enjoy these posts and would like to help keep this site going, please know your donation makes a difference! A contribution by check (click here) or via PayPal (below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!
♥ $10    
♥ $25    
♥ Or click here to send the amount of your choice

You can also support this journal by purchasing our book-in-progress, click here.

une contrefaçon

Truck = camion (c) Kristin Espinasse

une contrefaçon
noun, feminine
1. imitation, counterfeit, counterfeiting
2. forging, forgery, fabrication, infringement
3. pirating

Contrefaçon comes from the verb "contrefaire" which means to imitate,
to falsify, to mimic, to disguise, to infringe, to feign or to distort

contrefaçon littéraire = an infringement of copyright
contrefaire une signature = to forge a signature
contrefaire sa voix = to disguise one's voice
saisir des contrefaçons = to confiscate counterfeit (objects)

Citation du Jour:

La politesse n'est en elle-même qu'une ingénieuse contrefaçon de la bonté.

Politeness in itself is only an ingenious disguise of goodness.
--Alexandre Vinet

A Day in a French Life...

The drive from our medieval village in France to the seaport town of Ventimiglia, Italy takes only an hour and a half. It is a breathtaking ride most of the way, with the glimmering Mediterranean sea below and, east of Nice, hills peppered with villas; the colorful facades showing a charming patina from age and the salty sea breeze.

In Ventimiglia there is a jewellery shop on every street, and perhaps as many liquor stores. Shop windows are bursting with bottles of Ricard,* Italian grappa and a variety of alcohol. For those who like l'or* Ventimiglia has gold à gogo.* Perhaps the idea is to put a little wind in your companion's sails (or "mettre du vent dans ses voiles" = to get him a little tipsy) before venturing in to purchase that ring or collier.*

On many a street corner you'll see a man dressed in a boubou,* Louis Vuitton handbags dangling from each arm and more monogrammed purses bursting from a duffle bag... all knock-offs. Though Ventimiglia is known for its smoking deals on jewelry and alcohol (due to a lower liquor and jewellery tax) and for having one of the largest outdoor markets in Italy, it also seems to be the capital of...

"Contrefaçon," my husband says.
"What is contrefaçon?"
"You know, fakes."

"Si, si," says Sonia. "But if you want a Louis Vuitton, one that even the boutique sales people can't tell is faux, see Fernando next to the fish stall, just past the flowers. He has the season's new collection before the real line hits the shops! You cannot tell the difference!"

We are not in Ventimiglia for LV purses, alcohol or flowers, but to celebrate our 10 year wedding anniversary. The Italian Riviera is a good choice for its proximity to chez nous,* for its gastronomy, for its seaside allure and for an exotic change of scenery. (Exotic because we can't speak Italian and such foreignness has a way of throwing a warm pink hue on everything.)

"Ventimiglia is known for la joaillerie* and alcohol," Sonia confirms, "But also for its beauty!" she says, waving her arm out to the turquoise blue Ligurian sea.

We are seated on the terrace at the most eclectic lodge I have ever stayed in. Jean-Marc found the secluded B&B via an internet search and made reservations illico.* The former convent is practically perched over the sea and overrun by purple vine flowers, fig trees, lavender, blackberries and bamboo. To access the funky B&B we are obliged to park at the end of a gravel path, before heading down a steep stairway leading to the villa.

The stairs inside the house are severely sloped from 800 years of being tread upon and are now painted black. The white hallway walls are full of black and white photos of Hollywood stars. In our room's library, I find an odd assortment of books including a thick volume of the collected stories of Jane Austin, a book titled "Psychopathia Sexualis" and a "Dictionary of Marine Insurance Terms".

The next day Sonia makes us breakfast: un petit déjeuner as eclectic as the convent itself. We begin with dessert: crème caramel and a peach yogurt. Next, there is a tray of cantaloupe and Italian ham. After that we have a deep fried omelette with sliced hot dog followed by an apple cake. Finally she brings out a plate of fruit which resembles Lychee but smells like a rose. "From my garden," she says.

I notice Jean-Marc isn't eating the hot dog omelette or the apple cake and I end up eating it all so as not to vex our hostess. On I went, feigning, or one might say "en contrefaisant la faim."*

*References: Ricard = a brand of French pastis; l'or (m) = gold; à gogo = in abundance; un collier (m) = necklace; un boubou = a long robe worn in parts of Africa; chez nous = at our house; la joaillerie (f) = jewellery; illico = right away; en contrefaisant la faim = feigning hunger

Ongoing support from readers like you helps me continue this French word journal, now in its 18th year! If you enjoy these posts and would like to help keep this site going, please know your donation makes a difference! A contribution by check (click here) or via PayPal (below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!
♥ $10    
♥ $25    
♥ Or click here to send the amount of your choice

You can also support this journal by purchasing our book-in-progress, click here.